r u kidding me?

r u kidding me?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Sankewi

January 8, 2013

Notes:

This is a story that, as of this posting, has no end. Currently, it is a short story. Perhaps it will become a novella; perhaps (if this blog is any indication) it will become a full-fledged novel. Now that is a bit unsettling.

And, while the story is largely autobiographical, it is not an autobiography. There's a difference.

This story is dedicated to the readers of A Haven for Vee with love.

~~~

Chapter 1

Why do we settle so willingly for a predictable life?

Whatever our character traits, we have inherited the life of our own choosing and, if it is less than we desire, it is nevertheless exactly what we have chosen. My life was predictable and dull and I had created it just as it was. I had selected nearly every stone, every brick, every faded color. That is, until twenty-three short months ago.

Up until then, I knew that my life would plod along at a more or less steady, perfectly ordinary pace until I reached the grave. But sometimes God, the Universe, fate, whatever-you-want-to-call-it, comes calling and everything is new again.

So who am I and why should you care? Truthfully, I'll tell you right now that I am nobody special. Born in the fifties, I'll leave the exact date to your imagination, I am the product of the Baby Boom generation. We're the ones whose fathers fought in the European Theater or in the Pacific Rim during WW II or in the Korean War as my own father had done during the longest, coldest winter on record wearing only summer fatigues and wrapped at night in a summer sleeping bag. It's easier to understand why he sets the heat to eighty degrees these days. He got cold in Korea and he has not been warm since.

Did I say that my father was a Marine? Dad, once having been a Marine, didn't know how to stop. He is authoritarian in all his ways and, as a child, I received a great deal of his perfectionist training. If I rebelled against the rules and regulations, I was reprimanded sharply, threatened with all sorts of bodily harm, and generally made to feel that I was a second-class member of the family. Despite the control, I did rebel a lot by just doing what I wanted to do without argument. There's a name for that. Even so, a spineless daughter was created. Odd, really, since "spineless" was not what he wanted at all. 

What happened two years ago? Ahhhhh! I am going to tell you. No, correct that, I am going to show you...

I have lived a dreamer's life sitting by windows watching the world go by. This is probably some defect of brain chemistry, yet whatever the reason, I had been content to be an observer more than a participant.

That cold spring morning, sitting outside my own life looking in, I somehow grasped that I had been too long the victim, too long the watcher. It was time to get involved, to participate in my own experience. I started to realize that I wouldn't be a player on the stage much longer. If my life were compared to a five-act play, I had already lived the first three plus acts. It was time to begin the final two and somehow I thought that the final acts would, could, amount to more than those first ones.

Okay, get on with it you say. What happened two years ago?

[I don't think that I can expect readers to slog through much more than this at a time. I think it's best to date these entries. They are artificial interruptions, but they'll be more helpful to the reader than leaving it blank.]

1-9-2013


It's like this, I, a conformist by nature and a puritan to boot, bought a lottery ticket on April 27, 2003, and promptly hid it in my top dresser drawer. Wouldn't want my sister Mellie to know that I had done such a wordly, nay, sinful thing. It lay there forgotten even when the winning numbers were announced on May 5. I never even thought to check.

Three days later, mindlessly folding tea towels with This Morning on the tv, I heard Candy Morris say, "...and no one has stepped forward to claim the 47 million dollar tri-state lottery prize drawn three days ago. Somewhere, folks, we have a single winner who is taking their time getting to the claims office."

Grrrr...I thought to myself...does no one, not even a professional, use the correct pronoun?! Then I remembered. I had a lottery ticket buried deep within the socks, underwear, and old letters.

So you've guessed by now. I won the lottery!

1-10-2013

Except I hadn't.

Thought is such an odd thing. Ironically enough, not having the winning numbers was when I began to realize that I had been waiting for a lightning bolt to strike and the fact was that I would never be able to depend upon revelatory messages from on high. Yet, here was the thought that was itself something of a lightning bolt. It flashed in that brief moment and encapsulated within was this message: Your life is like a stone wall and you must create that life one stone at a time for yourself. It doesn't matter what happens. Keep selecting the next stone and placing it. Where the stone is placed is not as important as actually placing it somewhere—anywhere.

That's when I knew that I was done with watching from the sidelines. Done. I decided right then and there that things were, that I myself was, going to change.

How should I begin to make changes? Another flash decided it. Truly, I don't believe that the thoughts came from my own head because they were so foreign to my nature. Now I simply knew that I would embark upon some great adventure. Not one adventure, but seven. Why seven?

Who really knows, though I did know that some Indian nations understand seven in ways that help them keep their world in balance. In balance so that they will not become ill or crazy. They order their lives on patterns of seven creating beauty and harmony and thereby keeping confusion under control.

Not twenty minutes after these thoughts came to me out of nowhere, Mellie casually mentioned that she had just heard that every seventh wave in the sea is larger than the rest. I solemnly believe that that was what ultimately sealed it. It was a kind of sign. I was in a place where I needed a sign. Seven. Yes, seven adventures. My! That was going to be an awful lot for a gal like me whose biggest adventure of the week was to gather the household trash and haul it to the town dump.

Now what adventures did a fifty-something year-old gal like myself want to have?

What do you want? What do you want? What do you want? What do you want? What do you NEED? The question echoed through my head until it was an ocean wave crashing on the beach, every seventh wave, a larger, louder crash.

But what did I want when I had not allowed myself to give a care for years? That was my dilemma. The thought that I would answer the question itself frightened me. I not only could answer the question, I told myself, I would answer the question. I knew what I needed. I needed a complete change.

What do you want, Carrie? I asked myself.

Begin simply, I whispered, don't get too carried away.

The answer: I wanted to color my hair.

When I shared this with Mellie, as eventually I always do, she took it in stride. She is used to my musings.

"Color your hair?" Mellie squinted looking completely bewildered. "You call that an adventure?"

"I do." And I did and that's just the thing. Coloring my hair was a big step for me and I couldn't help it if Mellie didn't see that.

"Thank God for that, Carrie, you're looking a lot like Grandma Prince lately."

~~~

1-11-2013

Change begins with the most delicate shifts of balance. We step out in blind faith to do one thing and then the next step becomes clear. That was the way it was with me. Something as simple as a new hairdo and my world began slowly coming into focus again. Maybe it was the chemicals in the red dye, but I began to wake earlier, dress every single day, and perhaps the most astonishing thing was that I left the house every day to walk. That my walks were often through the cemetery may have been telling; even so, I was leaving the house.

Over the next few weeks, I began to transform slowly from being bitter and as brittle as aging concrete to being more positive and upbeat convinced that I was standing in the doorway of a bright future. The changes were subtle enough in the beginning, but then, like a diesel train leaving town, they began to pick up speed and, before too much longer, I was thinking about living, really living, once again.

Sometimes it just doesn't matter what steps you take as long as you do something. It is not about the result; it's about the process—not the destination, but the journey. It's not about the red hair, it's about trying something new. I began to feel the stirring of possibility and I wondered what form my next "adventure" would take. I hoped that I would find the courage to embrace it.

It didn't take long. It came in the form of a job offer in Maine.

~~~

Chapter 2

My father was born in Maine as were his father and grandfather before him. My mother was born in New Brunswick with many ties to Nova Scotia. She had been raised in Maine so our ties to the Northeast were strong, not only because we visited both sets of grandparents, but also because of one magical spot on Lake Kelusit.

Grandfather Taylor had purchased a cottage on a point of land along the south shore. He had given it as a wedding gift to his new bride. Sometimes it is difficult to imagine Nana Taylor ever having been a young bride, though we have her wedding portrait to prove it.

The cottage has now been in the family for seventy years and each generation finds it as charming as the newlyweds did in 1930. This place is considered the family gem, for, even if there is nothing else, there is Lake Kelusit.

The cottage was named Sankewi, which means "peace" and long, magical summers were spent there filled with days of swimming, canoeing, picnicking, berrying, and the famous ice cream and pancake socials.

It is a simple cottage, nothing ostentatious. In fact, we had, and there still exists, only a pump for water and no electricity. Set apart from the crowded northern shore, we found ourselves over and over again in an enchanted world where the constraints of time and modernity fell away.

Stories of the early years are many and have taken on legendary status. My grandfather loved people and, not bound by clocks, never hesitated to host a party at any time of the day or night. He shared five-gallon buckets of Watson's best vanilla ice cream or his famous buttermilk pancakes, light as feathers, yet thick and delicious and covered with pure maple sugar syrup harvested from his own trees. I never knew him, though Mellie and I smile to look at the sepia toned photographs of a hearty, large man grinning from ear to ear with his friends gathered around him in various comedic poses.

The camaraderie of that place and time became the glue that held families and friendships together for the larger part of a century. Now the cottage with its name hanging over the door spelled out in birch bark was sitting alone and empty. My own parents are no longer able to spend more than a few short weeks there. Age and illness do not go together well with such a place.

~~~

Reading the want ad over my morning cup of coffee, I dreamed again of spending time at the lake. Mellie would be surprised. I could hardly wait to show her what I had found hidden in the small print right there in the back of Along the Coast's May issue.

Wanted: Cranberry Publishing of Millfield, Maine, seeking a full-time Copy Editor for temporary project. This position is scheduled to begin on June 18 and carry through the end of August. Candidate will be responsible for light proofreading, publishing, and layout of book production. Strong working knowledge of MS Word, email, and internet is a must. This position requires a high attention to detail, organization, and customer service skills. Candidates with this background are urged to apply. 
Cranberry. I liked the name. My qualifications matched. Although I had spent most of my adult life teaching, I had a strong interest in the publishing world and had spent time as a proofreader. I never read anything as interesting as a novel, though I sure read a lot of text books, mostly medical and all written to give the reader detailed accounts of the most gruesome of illnesses. As a hypochondriac, I was lucky to have made it out of there alive.

1-16-2013

Even though my résumé could have used some additional fine-tuning, I was anxious and simply added a line or two, printed it from my files, kissed it, and sent it that very afternoon sending along a little prayer to keep it company.

Thrilled by the possibility of my actually applying for a job, it didn't matter to Mellie that it was temporary. For nearly two years, I had sat at home sinking into an abyss of shame and regrets. Shame that I could not seem to find a lasting job no matter how menial the labor and regret that I had wasted my life by teaching when I might have applied myself to something more fiscally responsible as Mellie had done with nursing. Nurses are always needed.

Yes, Mellie had been supportive. She had always been a friend as well as a sister Scratch that. As little girls, we were hardly supportive or friendly. I am five years older and our age difference had kept us at arm's length unless we were fighting. Mellie loved nothing better than a ripping good tussle and preferably one involving a sneak attack. She would pounce on me from the backs of sofas or the tops of stairs taking me down to the ground in a heap of knees and elbows as she shrieked like a wild thing. I worried about her. The tables are turned. She worried about me now.

We had lived together for almost four years by then. She arrived on a cold winter day fleeing a troubled marriage. Her two teenage daughters helped her gather a few things and they left their home and moved to mine. My own daughter was already on her own and my son would be shortly as he was a senior in high school at the time.

Everyone settled in quite amicably together except for those times when she accused me of being a control freak wanting to have all the say where dishes would be stored and little things like that. I don't know how we managed to stay on track with the three kids in a small house the first year, but every year after became easier and we settled into a comfortable, albeit dull life.

Today, all the children are on their own. They are doing well. Sometimes we worry about them. Sometimes we worry a lot.

~~~

Within ten days, I had received a very nice letter from a Mr. Charles Denning from Cranberry Publishing. My hands shook a little as I read the letter urging me to set up a telephone interview by calling his secretary. I allowed myself to think that maybe, just maybe, I did stand a chance of landing this job.

I should call his office today I thought as panic set in. Remember to breathe.Call today I told myself again as I worked to gather enough strength to follow through. Follow the process. Take the next step. Baby steps. Breathe.

Courage: the thing I lack and had always lacked, eluded me. I run in the face of danger; sink when I should rise; slip away unnoticed when I could have become involved. There's not one thing admirable about being a coward. I loathe cowards and find it particularly galling that I am one. I mean really. It's ridiculous to be afraid of phones and people and places and new things. I made a plan: if I called and the phone rang more than three times I would hang up. That would work.

My palms were sweaty, my breath shallow, my heart was beating too fast, but I pressed those buttons. I made the call. One ring. Two rings. Three rings. I hung up.

1-24-2013

When I awoke the next morning and looked out my bedroom window at the pale blue sky of morning, I decided to try again. After all, I reasoned, the hard part has already been done. Even with the ongoing pep talk swooshing around in my head, I felt myself wavering. Finally, I had the phone in my hand, the numbers were punched, the phone was ringing, and a friendly voice answered, "Cranberry Publishing, how may I help you."

The phone interview was scheduled for three that very afternoon and, lucky for me, I would not be doing the calling that time.

Mellie was working so no one to tell. Poor gal was always working. Working, working, working. Two jobs, sometimes three. She worked while I sat on my duff doing nothing. What was the point? I wasn't going anywhere.

But that day, I decided to dress as if I were, going somewhere that is. Perhaps that's what made the difference when Mr. Denning himself called promptly at three.

"Hello, Carolyn? Carolyn Taylor? This is Chuck Denning from Cranberry Publishing."

"Hello, Mr. Denning. Thank you for your call." My voice sounded so calm. Odd since my mind was skipping around the room and crashing into the furniture.

"I am the one to thank you for applying, " he said graciously.

We chatted pleasantly for a few minutes about Maine, the job, and my expectations. Mr. Denning make it all very easy and natural. Still, I was a little surprised when he asked, "Would you be willing to come to Millfield next Tuesday so that we can discuss some particulars?"

~~~

I allowed myself to feel hopeful for the first time in a long time. The Bible says that hope deferred makes the heart sick. I had been heartsick for some time now.

Mellie was so happy. I loved that this made her feel hopeful. I hadn't seen her that happy since I had come home with the new hairdo. My red hair made her happy and now the prospect of my finding an opportunity to go to Maine delighted her. We began to make plans for how we would be able to do this together.

If she took a long weekend, Mellie felt certain that she would be able to join me for the trip. We'd fly avoiding the 14-hour road trip from Virginia, then rent a car. We'd go to Sankewi and find out how it was doing after weathering the last three years alone. Like two young girls again, we were excited about an adventure.

Excitement is a wonderful emotion, but I realized all too well that I would not have been able to do it alone. I needed Mellie; it was just that simple. I was a drowning person clinging to a life preserver. And, as much as Mellie loved me, I knew that she couldn't appreciate being that preserver.

2-07-13

(My apologies! Lea asked me where the story had gone. Oh my!)

"You've got to have something to wear to that interview of yours, Carrie." Mellie announced just before bedtime. "Tomorrow let's go to the mall."

"Sure" I agreed. Shopping was not my idea of fun. I had become increasingly troubled being in large groups of people. This had been going on my entire life, but had become worse over the past ten years. I did, however, recognize the need for an updated outfit. Besides, I had lost a little weight and felt more comfortable with the idea of trying on clothes for the first time in a long while. Mellie, on the other hand, never had trouble shopping. Her closet reflected that. Too bad there wasn't something in there that I could snitch.

The Tanglewood Mall was busy with Friday shoppers as we looked for parking not too far from an entrance. Mellie parked outside a J.C. Penney's entrance on the far end. This was her usual plan. If I had had to predict where we would park, I'd have gotten it right.

Tanglewood had been a premiere mall in its day. As teenagers, we had spent plenty of time shopping and, as young women newly married, had loved shopping in the French Quarter. Today we were grateful that most young shoppers preferred a different mall. Hopefully, we'd find just what we were looking for without a lot of distractions...gum-chomping gals wearing chains and with piercings on every facial feature. I'd never get used to pierced eyebrows, noses, lips, and multiple piercings tracing ears' edges. It basically caused me to wonder what planet I had landed on.

Walking past a fountain on the dark wood parquet floors, we headed straight for Lubbetz's Chocolatiers. A delicious white chocolate Lubbetz wafer would work like a tranquilizer. We strolled with our handbags over our shoulders. I had nothing but a credit card in my wallet and the two-dollar bill my great-grandmother had given me for my sixth birthday. When it had become apparent that I was in financial distress, my mother had returned it to me saying, "With this you'll always know that you have some money." I carried it around like a talisman never believing in its power to actually work.

We were on our way to lunch when Mellie spotted my new blue outfit. "That's it! The perfect color for you and this tailoring will hide stuff."

"Stuff? What stuff are we talking about?"

Grinning she grabbed the suit from the rack and headed for the dressing room.

"Are you trying that on, Mellie?"

"Get over here right now! You know that we're shopping for you today!"

That no nonsense tone was the one she reserved for her daughters and me.

Mellie was right. The suit fit perfectly and it did hide stuff. I felt so good in that suit that I could have walked right out of the store wearing it. The way my red hair looked against that shade of blue...well, that red hair almost made me happy that day.

"Now some shoes." Mellie said.

I groaned.

"Are you planning to go barefoot? And you're not wearing those flip flops and that's final."

I looked down at my old pair of red flops. I wore them through most seasons of the year except on the coldest winter days or when it rained. I'd learned my lesson the hard way slipping and sliding through the grocery store one day on  linoleum.

Somehow I found classic taupe pumps that felt comfortable and didn't look too horrid. They were no Manolo Blahnik's, but shoe design at my age did not include pizza toes nor did my budget allow anything but Payless.

As we were leaving the mall walking briskly past the large fountains, the artsy lighting, and the tinted glass, we ran into Brenda whom Mellie immediately invited to join us for lunch.

~~~

3-07-13

(My sincere apologies for taking so long. I had no idea that it had been an entire month.)

...whom Mellie immediately invited to join us for lunch.

Chapter 3

Brenda is an old friend, but one who knows when to fade into the woodwork and then pop out again at just the right time. Brenda has so many friends that she finds managing us all a juggling act. I find her endearing with the right amount of "cute" — twinkle in her eye and a bounce in her step. She is cheerful, upbeat, perky. All the things that I am not. Oh, and another thing, she doesn't hesitate to say what's on her mind.

She is an avid adventurer, too, often striking off for automobile journeys of weeks completely on her own. Just last November she had asked me to go to Texas with her to visit her parents. I had naturally declined as graciously as possible, but it was a no all the same. Brenda has been given many "no's" through the years. I don't know why she doesn't give up asking.

"Oh I wish that I could have lunch, but I'm late now for an appointment. Can we get together tomorrow afternoon for tea?" Brenda waited grinning at us. Tea is a semi-sacred ritual for Brenda as it is for Mellie and myself. We usually set three o'clock aside for a cup of tea and some refreshment, though because of Mellie's schedule, it is not an everyday event. Brenda and I made plans for tea the next afternoon in spite of the fact that Mellie would be working and unable to join us.

~~~

When Brenda came breezing in twenty minutes after three, the teakettle was already whistling. She had walked the two miles from her home fighting thirty mile per hour gusts—typical March weather. Smelling fresh as linens hung to dry on the line, her hair, usually so neatly pulled into a twist and clipped with a big toothy gizmo, was falling around her face and shoulders. Pink cheeked, she looked younger than her years.

"Oh, it's so warm and cozy in your kitchen." She sighed as she sank into a kitchen chair without even removing her jacket. The mid-afternoon sun shone through my row of six over six-paned windows creating shallow strips of light at the base of each. Brenda smiled up at me as I poured the tea and served the freshly baked shortbread cookies.

We chatted mindlessly about the window-pane rattling wind, the leaves that were not budding, the maple syrup buckets clanking on my neighbor's trees. We were mostly unaware of the endless traffic passing by. 

An hour later we were caught up with each other's lives. Brenda's story took much longer than my own. That's always the way with women like me who live wary lives behind closed doors and hearts.

Even so, she had graciously listened to me talk about my friends at The Treehouse,  a popular internet message board. It was really all I had to talk about. Brenda did this without judgments, which I found refreshing since my sister no longer allowed me to discuss "those" friends.

It had become too difficult for Mellie to take me seriously anymore. Those friends from all over the United States and Canada had become more real to me than the people I had known all my life. Once, just a few weeks before, Mellie had even suggested an intervention. I had laughed, but it stung. It was true enough that I was living a life out of balance. The less I had to deal with real people, the better I liked it. There's a name for this, though a dose of denial is a valuable protector sometimes.

As Brenda was taking her final bite of the last shortbread cookie, she began smiling at me again and so warmly that I was on guard. "So I hear that you are headed for an interview in Maine."

I screwed my face into a knot.

"What's the matter? Are you scared?"

"No doubt and I don't like changes either."

"Oh boo-hoo, Carrie. Get over it! If you can't do that, get on with it! Oh I know your problem." 

How she turned "your" into three-syllables I don't know. I was stunned by her sarcasm and geared myself for some counselor talk. Brenda has a small counseling business, which she runs out of the basement of her home. "Small" means that she has two clients and I am not one of them.

"What in the world do you think you're doing sitting here day after day? Do you look through old photographs? Read old letters? Play the piano? Do you enjoy being tethered to the computer like a pony? For heaven's sake, Carrie, wake up! Life is passing you by!"

Ordinarily this kind of tactic would have left me fuming, but today I felt my eyes fill with hot tears. Who did she think she was anyway? After all, she had just drunk my tea and eaten my shortbread cookies.

"Bite your lip," she said noticing.

"Uh?"

"It'll stop you from crying. You've cried long enough. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and do not allow yourself to sabotage this opportunity. Do this for yourself, Carolyn, for yourself."

~~~

For a few days, I returned to former habits; although, I was thinking all the time that I had to move. Lethargy begets lethargy, ambivalence begets ambivalence, and apathy begets apathy. When I am truly feeling the need to do something, I clean and organize. A nice messy closet getting organized is the next best thing to finding a job or being present in a conversation.

But now, even I couldn't keep the excitement from building despite myself. The anticipation of something new about to happen was so intense. Friday afternoon, Mellie and I would climb aboard that plane and head to Boston where we would change flights heading for Portland. Landing at the Jetport at four in the afternoon, we would pick up our rented car and head sixty miles northwest to Lake Kelusit and our beloved Sankewi.

Dear God, allow me to follow through on something for once, please?


4-24-2013

Traffic in Maine is nothing compared to traffic in Virginia. It was always one of the first things we noticed. That and how heavenly the air smelled with balsam and pine mixed with juniper floating on the fragrant sea breeze from Casco Bay. Still, we were so eager to get to Sankewi that we ignored the ocean and headed straight for I-95 North.

Mellie fully intended to drive through Millfield past Cranberry Publishing so that I could see where I would be going for my interview on Tuesday morning. But the interview seemed pleasantly far away this Friday afternoon.

As usual, because Mellie drove, I got to enjoy all the sights. It was one of her frequent complaints that I allowed to go in one ear and out the other. Once we left I-95 in Gray, I would have even more to enjoy—the sights and sounds of small town Maine as we wended our way to the Western foothills. There were the ubiquitous Civil War monuments all decked out in flags, ribbons, and flowers in preparation for Memorial Day; the quaint homes with their attached sheds and barns needing some paint and care. Some homes even stood newly painted or newly covered in the dreaded aluminum siding. We knew the way so well that time passed quickly as we passed the first views of the five lakes along the way before we would see our own Kelusit.

Thankfully, the days are much longer in May and we would be arriving well before dark. This was not always true in our youth as we often staggered into camp in the wee hours of the morning. That was fine for young people, but not so for us who, in our middle years, were beginning to notice the way we began to lurch about when too tired or hungry. Speaking of hungry, were we ever! And we could not wait to arrive at Thayer's in Millfield.

Thayer's sat in the nook of one of the five corners in Millfield's center. A breakfaster's delight, it would serve us quite well since Mellie and I liked nothing better than a meal of toast and eggs for supper. The smell of bacon hung in the air as Mellie parked the car. The place looked quiet for a late Friday afternoon, but that just meant that finding a booth would be easy.

"Well, Mellie and Carrie, as I live and breathe. What in the world are you doing here?"

We grinned at the waitress who was wearing tight blue jeans and a striped red and white shirt, horizontal stripes, without regard for her girth.

"Hello, Janine. How are you doing?"

"Oh pretty good, but not worth the powder it'd take to blow me across the street." She smiled. "I haven't seen you gals in ages. Are you heading for the lake?"

"Exactly, " I responded.

"Oh that's great. I don't think anyone's in yet, though. We were out last weekend and just stayed the afternoon. Stan wanted to begin doing some cleaning up, mostly raking."

Mellie and I nodded in unison. We had already been talking about the amount of cleaning that would be needed before the camp was up to our standards.

"Where is everybody tonight?" Mellie asked.

"Oh there's a supper at the Methodist Church. You, gals, are really missing out."
Janine went on without skipping a breath and without concern for what her boss might say if he heard her pushing another dining experience.

"They have everything you can possibly imagine to eat. Everything. Usually, they serve ham and a turkey plus all sorts of casseroles, lasagna, macaroni and cheese, lots of salads. You know those molded jello salads with all the whipped cream? I love those things. Smart people don't eat any of that stuff, though, they just wait for the desserts. At least, that's what Stan does. He loves the pies. Strawberry is his favorite. What kind of pie do you like?

"Chocolate, " Mellie said simply, "chocolate anything."

"Well, who doesn't? chuckled Janine. "They have lots of chocolate—pies, cakes, brownies, cookies, you name it, you can get it there. I don't know how those church ladies have the time to do all that baking. Lord knows, I don't have that kind of time anymore. But the best thing about the church supper is meeting everybody in town right there. Course I do get to see most folks here, but there's a few that only get out for the church supper."

Just as I became concerned that we were being talked into leaving, Janine waved at the nearly empty room and told us to sit anywhere.

Twenty minutes later, we had our meals and were enjoying a cup of coffee.

"I'm so glad to be away from the rat race, " Mellie said.

"Your job is intense, " I agreed with Mellie.

"Yes, crazy intense and I have been at it for too long."

I raised an eyebrow as I peered over the top of my mug.

"Well, this will be a nice little break for you then."

"Hmmmm" Mellie agreed as she speared another hash brown.

"Carrie, I've been thinking." She paused and looked me right in the eye. "What would you say if I told you that I have given the hospital my notice?"

"Ahhhh, I'd say that maybe you'd better think it over."

Mellie hedged a bit and then mumbled, "Too late for that."

~~~

4-26-2013 (I know! Shocking!)

Chapter 4

We had finished our meals in relative silence and were now driving the last few miles before the camp road.

Cranberry Publishing had been easy to find and would not be a problem for me to return to on Tuesday morning at eight-thirty. It sat the fourth building along its block from the town's one and only traffic light. It was a painted white brick building with pale blue and pale yellow trim. I like the look. I couldn't remember its having been there before, but Mellie told me that it had been faded red brick the last time I had been in town.

Mellie's words were rolling around in my thoughts. "Too late for that." I had not pressed her since I was in no position to question her. After all, I had been floating around all this time doing nothing while she had become overworked and underappreciated. I would wait for a better time when we were both less tired to discuss it again.

There it was! The camp road just ahead with all the names of the campers on old shingles nailed to a tree. Sawyer, Dunlop, Merrill, Fiore, West, and Taylor. As an unnecessary bonus, each shingle was shaped into an arrow tip that pointed into the depths of the forest. Slowly, Mellie turned the car down the road and we entered the narrow path as the sun hung low over the trees casting dark shadows as we crept along riding the high places. Squirrels scampered in the pines and chipmunks skittered across the road with their tails straight up in the air like masts on tiny ships.

We would soon turn that final bend in the road where one cove of Kelusit would sit sparkling in the sunset before us. The anticipation was almost overwhelming and then, well then, we were there looking at Kelusit's placid surface and the golden path the setting sun made across the water.

~~~

Sankewi sits nestled in pines at the furthest point that reaches way out into the water between coves along Kelusit's southern shore. It has glorious views and small windows with which to see them. It is for that reason, that Adirondack chairs are set out almost immediately upon arrival.



This is where Mellie and I found ourselves that first night each seated in an Adirondack chair watching the sun sink beyond the earth's shoulder and when the final colors faded to deep lavenders and black, we heaved ourselves forward with a mighty lurch and set about to making a pot of tea and having a bit of cheese with crackers. That would energize us for the next great task of making beds and crawling into them. We'd worry about cleaning in the morning.

~~~


Perhaps it was the tea and the excitement of being back at Sankewi after so many years or perhaps it was the ancient mattress. Whatever the reason, I didn't sleep well. I dreamed of being chased, then of going in reverse in a car so fast that I could not control the wheel, and finally of looking for something or someone and not finding it. I lay there on my lumpy mattress watching the sun rise higher and the lace curtain fluttering in the early morning breeze. Birdsong, thin morning light, and the smell of coffee filled my bedroom.

Mellie had been rustling about in the kitchen for some time. I had heard her muttering while trying to light the gas stove and knew when she'd had success by the whooshing sound of the gas igniting.  I wondered whether she could get the water pump primed. Like many of the women in the family before us, we fretted that if that pump ever lost its prime... Well, there would go the luxury of running water!

Over coffee, we came to the decision to buy new mattresses. Excellent decision if I do say so myself. We cleaned up our dishes quickly, dressed, and were at Nat's Discount Furniture by 9:00. By 9:30, we were shopping in aisle three at the Save a Buck grocery. An hour after that, we were back at Sankewi with enough groceries for a week, the mattress receipt in hand, and a three pm delivery time. 
Five blessed hours to clean two bedrooms and get rid of two mattresses. We'd tear off the fabric, salvage what we wanted of old springs and burn the frame on the rocky beach below the cottage. We'd burn them along with some scrap, punky wood and watch the embers die until late into the night. We loved little fires along the shore and had had to learn the meaning of the word "pyromaniac" at an early age.

Lunchtime came and went without our paying much attention. Mellie looked a fright with her short hair standing on end and her face red and splotchy. I had glanced in the mirror  and saw one tired old woman looking back. She had dirt smeared across one cheek and wore a torn t-shirt.  All three of us had sneezing fits.

All manner of memories are tied up in those bedrooms. I found my great-grandmother's quilts made from the wool coats of family members from the last 200 years. I took one in my arms and looked closely at it.  It is not beautiful and it is so heavy that it is not functional, but her stitches are still there, sturdy and thick.  I imagine how I'll take the quilt apart and cut the wool carefully and recreate the entire thing. Then I think again and put it back into the round drum canister where I found it.

Memories along with old mouse nests and bat poo make a heady combination.

Twenty-five garbage bags later, some order was restored to those rooms. Mellie's had been painted the last time we were there in a pale lavender. Our grandmother's large brimmed lilac hat was the only thing hanging on the wall. Mellie decided that that was much too plain so she began to staple old game boxes on the walls replacing the lids and gluing them to keep it all together. It looked oddly attractive somehow, those old game boxes flying about willy-nilly on the walls. Guess there'd be no more playing those games, though.
We worked on the iron bed frames together after tossing the mattresses over the banking. We scrubbed those frames from top to bottom using some old toothbrushes we'd found in the shed. 

When I stood up to admire our progress, my stomach let me know, in no uncertain terms, that working on empty was not appreciated.
I found a more or less clean iron skillet and set it on the stove to heat while I found the cheese and bread to make grilled cheese sandwiches. The trouble with stopping for lunch was starting again afterward. We are not spring chickens after all!

It was the lace curtains that spurred me up from the table — the thought of them being clean again and smelling fresh. I decided to wash them in the lake. I gathered the curtains, the wash tub, the waffled scrubbing board, and the fels naptha bar and headed down the stone steps to a sitting rock below. There's something very relaxing about doing laundry the old-fashioned way — seated on a rock and with one's feet in the water. I enjoyed it and was sorry when the four panels were done. I leaned back on my elbows with my face lifted to the warm late May sunshine. I might have fallen asleep for a split second.

While the curtains blew in the breeze...it'd not take them long to dry on this warm May day... I washed the window, wiped down the walls, which were a faded, flowered yellow wallpaper, and mopped out the room. Mellie had already finished her room and was waiting on the porch swing for those mattresses to arrive, which they did at seven minutes after three.

~~~











DB